CSCI 699: Theory of Machine Learning, Class presentations

General instructions


Student presentations are the most important part of the course. Their goal is two-fold:

  1. Give you a taste of ML theory research, especially many interesing areas and topic which we do not cover in class.
  2. Give you an opportunity to practice the skill of giving talks, which is an extremely important part of your PhD training (but is often overlooked)
Each presentation will be about 35 minute long, with 15 minutes for questions and discussion, for a total of about 50 minutes. For the presentation you can either use slides, use the tablet I use in class or, if you prefer, the blackboard. To ensure all presentations are high-quality, one week before the presentations, you are asked to meet with me to review your slides/material and your preparation. Therefore, you should try to be ready with your presentation a week before it is scheduled. This preparation review will be worth 10% of your grade, the actual in-class presentation will be worth 20%.

Some general advide regarding the talk:

  1. Try to do one practice talk before your talk, with any of your friends, classmates etc. if possible. One of the surest ways of giving good talks is to get feedback and be reasonably well prepared.
  2. You are totally not expected to cover everything in your paper! In fact, most likely you will only have time to cover one or two main results. Try to convey one or more key insights or takeaways instead of a lot of technical details.
  3. On a related note, even if the paper is notation-heavy, it does not mean your talk has to be so. Try to use a minimum amount of notation to convey what you want to say. It is common to make simplification in talks even if that means sacrificing generality or even rigorousness.
  4. To combine the above two points, when you read the paper and plan your presentations, try to identify one or two key ideas that you want to present. You should try to present at least one theoretical result in a self-sufficient way in the presentation, including the proof or proof sketch (you'll probably only have time to do this for one theoretical result). This would mean that you might have to present the result in the most simple and cleanest setting, trying to avoid all extra details and jargon. Try to also relate the presentation to material covered in class wherever possible.
  5. I encourage you to watch these extremely nice short videos by Uri Alon on how to give a good talk: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] .

Some remarks regarding the papers:

  1. You are not required to understand every single detail of the papers! Instead, try to focus on the key ideas/messages. It is fine that you only skim some parts of the paper, as long as you spend time in carefully reading and understanding some other main parts. Importantly, if your paper is long, you only need to read about 20-30 pages for the presentation, enough to get some key ideas and present them. If your project report will be on the same paper, you can read a bit more for the final report, or read a bit more of some other related paper, but around 30 pages is still sufficient.
  2. If you need further help understanding your paper, feel free to ask on Piazza or schedule an appointment with me.

Schedule and papers